Leakage is our Best Weapon
Recently, experts gathered via a Firestorm Virtual Exercise to discuss the threat of violence facing our nation and world. The session featured Hart Brown, Firestorm COO as moderator with Jason Russell of SEC and Dr. George Vergolias of R3 Continuum as guests. We brought you a Q&A with Jason based upon the session. Today, we bring you a Q&A with Dr. Vergolias. In this Q&A, Dr. Vergolias discusses warning signs that, if identified, can prevent violent incidents from occurring, such as using the Firestorm predictive intelligence approach.
What is Leakage?
Dr. George Vergolias (GV): Leakage is when someone “leaks” or vocalizes harmful intentions prior to acting.
Karen Masullo, Firestorm Chief Intelligence Officer, has indicated that we have seen leakage in every situation of mass shooting or violence this year apart from the Las Vegas Shooting. How often is leakage identified?
(GV): Recent research indicates that in the last 20 years, nearly 95 percent of school shootings have had clear indications of leakage. In terms of lone wolf attacks, individuals indicated leakage 85 percent of the time.
Where is leakage usually seen?
(GV): In more organized terrorist groups, we do not see leakage. They operate the way armies or special Ops operate; they do not speak unless they want the message spread.
The individual, who is a lone actor, wants to be heard, known and recognized as a champion or even a martyr for the cause. If I mean to hurt someone, I’m not going to tell said person. I’m not going to warn them. But, I may warn someone else by stating, “(Insert name) is going to get it on Monday morning.”
Leakage provides us the opportunity to begin tracking threats. We frequently see leakage in the school environment when younger individuals begin to act out on social media. Firestorm monitoring program examines 19 types of public social media platforms, plus a significant number of news, blogs, discussion boards and websites.
How can we track threats?
(GV): We can track leakage through online social monitoring, or open-source intelligence monitoring. This methodology identifies publicly posted information and provides an understanding into the thoughts of individuals. There are different types of monitoring options.
One option is to virtually monitor on a 24/7 basis using software. In some cases, we utilize this methodology for specific individuals by monitoring detailed key words or phrases.
A second option of open-source intelligence monitoring is utilizing geography. A virtual net, or geofence, can be cast over an exact area, like a campus or building. Every public social media mention in that specific net will be captured for review with alerts created for threatening key words or phrases.
Once monitoring is established, a team must identify the messages and understand the context. Open-source intelligence monitoring is an incredibly powerful tool when dealing with threats. Many times, organizations receive minimal information on a potential threat. Open-source intelligence monitoring assists in filling in the gaps and provides additional insights to a person’s intent. We may even be able to prevent the event from occurring.
Leakage is our best weapon to prevent incidents of violence. Although complex, we must utilize social media as an identification tool if we are going to be effective in seeing issues before they occur.